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Your guide to extended households

We know that it has been a difficult journey so far – especially if you’re the only adult living in your home. But, the good news is that some people can now form an extended household with another family or person who they don’t live with. This is a change that can provide comfort and support by giving you the chance to spend more time with friends or loved ones, and hopefully, get some much-needed help with childcare.

However, it’s important to remember that you can only form an extended household if:

  • at least one of the two households has only one adult living in it, or
  • you are a couple who don't live together.

Having an extended household allows everyone in both homes to act as if they all live together – meaning that you no longer have to stay 2 metres apart from each other. You can also spend as much time together as you like – including staying overnight. In an extended household you can eat together, watch TV together, drive in the same car, basically everything you already do at home – you can even hug!

Choosing an extended household

If you’re the only adult living in your home, it’s a good idea to take some time to think about who you want to form an extended household with. If you have older children, you may also want to discuss it with them too. Remember that both households have to agree to form an extended household – so be sure to talk this through. 

One way to help decide is to think about your needs. For example, you may need support with childcare, be missing your friends or family, or be concerned about other family members who are on their own. So take some time to think it over to make sure the decision is best for everyone involved.

Guidelines on forming an extended household

  • You can only form an extended household if one of the adults lives alone (or lives alone with children under 18 years old) or you are a couple who don't live together.
  • You can only form an extended household with one other household.
  • Each extended household must be exclusive – so if you chose to form an extended household with someone, they cannot form an extended household with anyone else.
  • Once you’ve agreed on your extended household, you can’t swap it for another.
  • Households can end the arrangement at any time, but should not then form a new extended household.

Protecting those at risk

People who have been shielding or who are in high risk groups, such as people over 70, pregnant mothers and those with underlying medical conditions, can be part of an extended household. However, everyone should keep strictly to the handwashing, surface cleaning and hygiene guidance on the NHS Inform website.

Meeting up with other households

Once you’ve agreed on your extended household, you can think of yourselves as being one big, single household, rather than two. This means your extended household can meet up with 1 other household at a time, up to a maximum of 6 people (excluding under 12s), but your extended household should maintain physical distancing from other households and follow hygiene guidance. If there are more than 6 people aged 12 and over in your household, you won’t all be able to meet up with another household, as the maximum number for 2 households meeting up is 6. Children under 12s don't count towards the limit of 6 people, but do count towards the limit of households who can meet.

Frequently asked questions

How many adults can live in an extended household?

As long as one of the households consists of an adult living alone or with children under 18, or you are a couple but don’t live together, there is no limit to the number of adults allowed in the extended household.

Can l have an extended household with a relative who is over 70 and lives alone?

Yes, as long as no one in either household is in another extended household.

Can the adults in an extended household look after each other’s children?

Yes. There are no physical distancing requirements with extended households, so you can look after each other’s children, and spend time at either house. This is one reason why it’s important to think about your needs when choosing an extended household.

How long does an extended household agreement last?

As long as you need it to. Households can end the arrangement at any time, but should not then form a new extended household.

Do you have to live in the local area to form an extended household?

No, you don’t need to live a certain distance from the household you wish to form an extended household with. However, it’s a good idea to think about your needs and whether forming an extended household with someone who lives far away will be helpful for you both.

I am a single parent living with my child, but my child also spends time with their other parent. Can my child’s other parent and I both have extended households?

Yes. You, and your child’s other parent, can each form an extended household separately. Your child can be part of both extended households as long as they’re under 18, and as long as you and their other parent lives alone, or only with children under 18. The household with whom each of you forms an extended household with cannot already be part of another extended household.

Is there a time limit on how long you can spend with members of your extended household?

No, you can even stay the night, or longer if you wish.

Is there a limit on the number of children that can be in an extended household?

No.

I am a single parent with a child under 18. Can my child form an extended household with their best friend?

Yes, if that family is happy to form an extended household. However, remember that together you and your child can only form one extended household, so if your child forms one with a friend, you will not be able to form a different one with anyone else.

What do I do if someone in my extended household starts showing coronavirus symptoms?

If someone has coronavirus symptoms, everyone in the extended household should self-isolate. The person with symptoms should book a test online on the NHS Inform website. If they can’t book online, they can call 0800 028 2816. Anyone who has symptoms can be tested.

If the test is negative, everyone in the extended household will be able to stop isolating. Until then, however, you should stay at home.

If the test is positive, the person with symptoms should isolate for 10 days and everyone in the extended household should isolate for 14 days.

It’s important that everyone remains in self-isolation for the full length of time they’re asked to.

You can find all the information about what you need to do in the NHS Inform website here.